Eleven months after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, the 27 EU Foreign Ministers will today exchange views on additional assistance for Ukraine. One key area on today’s agenda is military support in the form of weapons and military equipment within the framework of the European Peace Facility. Parallel to this, the EU is preparing the next package of sanctions against Russia, which will be the tenth, in order to step up the pressure on President Putin and the Russian leadership to end the illegal attack against Ukraine. The Ministers will also prepare the subject matter of the summit between EU Heads of State and Government and Ukraine scheduled for 3 February. For the German Government, the clear guiding principle remains: Ukraine belongs to Europe and should become an EU member state in the future.
During their meeting in Brussels, the Ministers will also talk about the prosecution of Russian crimes in connection with the illegal war of aggression against Ukraine. This is about assistance in gathering evidence as well as charges brought by international or Ukrainian bodies. A week ago, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock gave a speech at the Academy of International Law in The Hague on the question of accountability.
Accountability matters. Because the perpetrators here in Europe and in all other parts of the world must know that they won’t get away scot-free. This is a question of deterrence. But, most importantly, this is also a question of justice, for the victims. The people who have experienced and unfortunately continue to experience such immeasurable suffering in Bucha, Kharkiv and Mariupol, who mourn their brothers, their sisters and their parents, their children and their friends. Who have had to witness crimes committed by the Russian side first-hand. Rape, abduction, violence, torture and murder. They all need hope for justice. There can be no lasting peace without justice.
Foreign Minister Baerbock in her speech in The Hague on 16 January 2023
The EU standing by the people of Iran and Afghanistan
The 27 Foreign Ministers will also address once more the situation in Iran and adopt a fourth package of sanctions. The German Government has been resolutely driving forward the preparation of this package within the EU. With new listings as part of the existing EU sanctions regime to protect human rights, the EU will exert renewed pressure on the Iranian regime to halt the use of force against Iranians.
The EU Ministers are concerned about the situation of people in Afghanistan. The human rights situation in the country has deteriorated further in a dramatic fashion following the latest bans by the Taliban, which exclude women and girls from universities and prohibit them from working for NGOs. The 27 member states will therefore also talk about the Taliban’s misogynist policies during their meeting, as well as about joint responses.
Other topics: The Sahel and West African coastal states, the Middle East, Ethiopia
In the Sahel region and in West Africa, terrorist groups are increasingly taking root. The EU is determined to counter this trend and to strengthen the resilience of democratic societies in the region. The EU and its member states have therefore adopted a multi-pronged approach: security assistance (for example, in the form of military training missions geared to the needs in individual countries), civilian stabilisation measures, efforts to tackle climate change as a catalyst for conflict as well as strategic communication to offset Russian influence.
The Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh will be a guest at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting. During lunch, the EU Foreign Ministers will discuss the situation in the Palestinian territories with Shtayyeh, as well as EU support for reforms and for the Middle East peace process.
The EU’s cooperation with Ethiopia following the peace agreement between the government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) of early November 2022 will also be discussed at the meeting. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and her French counterpart Catherine Colonna travelled to Ethiopia together mid‑month and will brief their colleagues on the talks they had there. Options for greater EU engagement with Ethiopia will be considered at today’s Foreign Affairs Council meeting.